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Thursday, 24 September 1942

Senator DARCEY (Tasmania) . - To-night, I intend to change over from money to morals. Honorable senators will realize that all justice is founded on the moral law, and that any legislation on the statute-book contrary to it will lead to national degeneration and trouble. A few months ago, the Minister for Health (Mr. Holloway) introduced a bill dealing with widows' pensions. That act provides for what are known as de facto widows. The words " de facto " are Latin, and I am sure that many honorable senators who voted for this measure did not know what they meant. Be facto is the opposite of de jure, which means lawful. Any one who has read the newspapers knows that the act has caused strong resentment amongst churches, and many women's organizations. The claim is that, under this legislation, de facto widows are placed on the same footing as de jure widows, and a considerable amount of misunderstanding has arisen. Recently, a friend of mine told a woman friend in the bus, that she was looking very smart. The woman said, " Yes, I am going to be married to-day ". My friend asked in what church the ceremony was to take place, and the reply was that, as it was to be a companionate marriage, she could not be married in a church, because the man with whom she proposed to live was already married. The woman was by no means of an ignorant type, but apparently the man who wanted her had persuaded her that the alliance would be quite legal. My friend assured her that it was not so, and the marriage did not take place. I draw the attention of the Senate to the following letters which have been written by the Women's Christian Temperance Union. The following letter was sent to me : - 10th September, 1942.

The executive and members of the Women's Christian Temperance Union have earnestly petitioned the Federal Government, through the Minister for Health and Social Services, to repeal the de facto widows clause in the Widows' Pension Act.

We will deem it an honour if you will grant us your sympathetic and valued support in our appeal.

To acquaint you with our grounds for objection to the de facto clause, I am enclosing copy of letter forwarded to the Minister setting forth points for appeal, as we view them.

Trusting you will grant our earnest request. (Mrs.) Florence Kenna,

State Superintendent for Moral Education and Legislation.

The following communication was directed to the Hon. E. J. Holloway, M.H.R., Minister for Health and Social Services : -

In furtherance of the letter forwarded by the State Executive of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, requesting you to repeal the de facto widows clause in the Widows' Pensions Act, I wish, on behalf of my executive and members, to place before you for your consideration the following facts that -

(1)   The clause referred to is undemocratic and destroys the basic principle of home life as carried out under our British rule of " ordered civilization under law".

(2)   It abrogates the right of the unborn child to the protection of lawful parenthood and security of upbringing in ways spiritual and moral; which protection it is necessary to safeguard by administrative law.

(3)   The birth-rate in Australia has decreased alarmingly and the legal recognition of companionate marriage must seriously aggravate an already dangerous position in relation to the future of this Commonwealth.

In petitioning for the repeal of the de facto widow clause and the substitution of some other form of relief, we plead the cause of the young people who must at some future date take their places as the rulers of this State and nation.

Trusting that you will urge upon the Government the necessity of this important matter being re-considered without delay. (Mrs.) Florence Kenna,

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